SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Ever since the combining of Harbor and Ashtabula high schools, a program known as Senior Leadership has given Lakeside seniors an opportunity to volunteer their time, gain valuable leadership skills, help the community and even leave school a little bit early. The program, pioneered by Lisa Raffa, is a seventh period class that is open to seniors who are dedicated and willing to work to better Lakeside and the community.
The purpose of the class is to encourage students to be leaders within Lakeside High School and Ashtabula. They volunteer at places such as the Ashtabula Senior Center, Lakeside Elementary Campus, G.O. Ministries, Catholic Charities, the YMCA of Ashtabula County, local daycares, restaurants and the headquarters of many other local organizations. By participating in Senior Leadership, students develop valuable skills that will prepare them to become leaders in Ashtabula County or wherever they venture as adults.
Students are encouraged to be creative and come up with their own unique ways to volunteer and help the community. For example, Chad McAfee and Shawn Gilbert decided to spend time two days each week aiding Sarah Severino, a kindergarten teacher at Ontario Primary.
“We help out the class by sharpening pencils, laminating and helping with crafts,” McAfee said. “We help the kids recognize the alphabet and numbers and teach them basic reading skills.”
During some days of the school week, they also volunteer at the Veterans of Foreign Wars by cleaning out the garages and washing the boats, cars and other vehicles in them.
The members of Senior Leadership also play an important role in planning school functions.
“(Senior) Leadership has organized most of the assemblies held by the school. We organized the Divine Nation ‘Stop Bullying’ concert, the boys’ volleyball tournament, and we organize the powderpuff football game every year,” McAfee said.
The group is very active in the school, and they serve as role models for the underclassmen. Sophomore Kaitlyn Koski looks forward to joining the program as a senior and making a difference in the community. “I’m glad that Lakeside has this program and I’m proud of our students for wanting to better the community,” Koski said.
One of the main focal points of the class is the Service Learning Project. Each senior is responsible for designing, planning and executing a unique service project each semester. The seniors can either complete their Service Learning Projects individually or share a project with a partner.
McAfee paired up with senior Ryan Towner to complete a Service Learning Project earlier this year. The duo designed T-shirts for the Lakeside Scream Team, gathered sponsors to advertise on the shirts, and sold them to Lakeside students. The $200 profit was donated to G.O. Ministries and put toward a Christmas celebration for children in the area.
At the conclusion of the school year, students that have shown outstanding dedication to Senior Leadership will receive the Presidential Award. The Presidential Award is presented to students that complete more than 50 hours of community service throughout the year. The most rewarding aspect of Senior Leadership is not receiving the Presidential Award, but knowing that the community is a brighter place thanks to Lakeside students. This program helps students discover the fact that volunteering is a rewarding experience in itself.